From The Elephantine Ethics Alarm “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Files: Reuters, Beto O’Rourke, And The Cult Of The Dead Cow

Reuters reported Friday that newly declared Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke had been part of an infamous hacker group as a teen. (Hacking is illegal unethical, don’t you know.)

Reporter Joe Menn said that he learned about O’Rourke’s involvement in the group when he began researching The Cult of the Dead Cow, which he called “the most interesting and influential hacking group in history.”

He discovered that an alumnus of the group had a member who was sitting in Congress. “I didn’t know which one,” Menn said, “and then I figured out which one it was. And the members of the group wouldn’t talk to me about who it was. They wouldn’t confirm that it was this person unless I promised that I wouldn’t write about it until after the November 2018 election,” that being O’Roarke’s unsuccessful effort to defeat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last year. Reuters, to be clear, sat on the story, which may have interested Texas voters, for two years.
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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/19: March Ethics Madness!

Good morning!

Any week that starts off with John Belushi’s immortal reflections on March just has to be a good week.

1. Connecticut: Judicial ethics and guns. Anti-gun fanatics are cheering this week’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court  reversing  a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed. In the 4-3 decision the court  possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, thus setting the stage for a sensational “Runaway Jury”-type trial. The court’s reasoning is that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians. The problem is that the ruling ignores the law, as John Hinderaker explains (but he’s not the only analyst trashing the decision):

“Firearms of all kinds have been ‘designed for military use.’,” he writes. “The 1911, designed by John Browning, was the standard U.S. military pistol for many years and remains one of the most popular pistol designs today. So what? There is no such exception in the Second Amendment…Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law will govern over state law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is intended to avoid precisely the result reached by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The PLCAA puts firearms manufacturers on the same plane with all others. If their products are not defective–if they do not malfunction–they are not liable. If someone stabs a victim to death with a knife, the victim’s heirs can’t sue the knife manufacturer. It is the same with firearms.”

Hinderaker correctly concludes that significance of the ruling is not that it opens a road for the Second Amendment to be constrained, or for ruinous liability to applied to gun-makers, but that it shows how courts will deliberately ignore the law to reach political goals. Continue reading

Q: “What Kind Of Person Fakes Her Voice?” A: “A Competent One.”

Preface: This is the kind of issue that can be hard to find, unless one has unlimited time to search all sources and for better or ill, I don’t. Ethics Alarms is still feeling the effects of losing the regular services of topic scout Fred, who had a remarkable reach, finding ethics issues in all sorts of places I never would (though Fred does drop by here to comment, and I am grateful for that, as well as his long service.) I really do depend on the readers for tips, particularly in the non-political arena. Even the news aggregating sites like The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, the Blaze and Huffington Post have become more politics obsessed than ever, so Ethics Alarms has to dig deeper and go farther. Some of our best discussions have arisen out of obscure venues. So please: keep an ye open, and write me at jamproethics@verizon.net/

Ann Althouse found this, from The Cut:

There are many fascinating, upsettingdetails in the story of Elizabeth Holmes, but my favorite is her voice. Holmes, the ousted Theranos founder who was indicted last year on federal fraud charges for hawking an essentially imaginary product to multi-millionaire investors, pharmacies, and hospitals, speaks in a deep baritone that, as it turns out, is fake. Former co-workers of Holmes told The Dropout, a new podcast about Theranos’s downfall, that Holmes occasionally “fell out of character” and exposed her real, higher voice — particularly after drinking. One can only assume the voice will be discussed in the upcoming HBO documentary, too.

To begin with, as anyone can hear from the video above, Theranos did not and does not speak in deep baritone voice, which tells us immediately that the author, Katie Heaney, doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Neither, apparently, does Ann, who directs us to another video and describes Holmes’ voice as “a ludicrous phony voice.” There’s nothing ludicrous about it, and if she is not using a ventriloquist, it’s not phony either. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2019: Smirks, Grovels, Smears, Gotchas And Gracelessness

Gooooood MORNING!

Feeling blue today, so I had to start off with the great Charles Trenet magic ballad.

1. “I’m smart! I’m not dumb like everybody says!” Yesterday I hypothesized that Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees was fired because of sexual harassment allegations. Apparently I was right.

2. Another hypothesis! I think I may know why the unhinged media and MAGA-haters went so over-the-top bonkers over Nick Sandmann’s supposedly sinister smile when the Native American jerk was banging a drum in his face. We’ve been streaming 2018’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” on Netflix, and it is amazing how much Darren Criss, playing serial killer and sociopath Andrew Cunanan, resembles Sandmann in that unfortunate photo. I suspect that Martinez’s disturbing performance as a gay predator was sill percolating in the minds of some observers, and Sandmann’s “smirk” stirred extreme revulsion that wasn’t entirely his doing.

Look:

3.  “Never apologize; It’s a sign of weakness.” Capt. Nathan Brittles’ (John Wayne) rebuke of a young cavalry officer (Harry Caray Jr.) in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” is sometimes right, especially recently, when cowardly public figures apologize when they have done nothing wrong.

Yesterday, a group of students at an NYU vigil dedicated to the 49 people were murdered in two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand confronted Chelsea Clinton, accusing her of sparking the massacre by condemning the anti-Semitism of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “The 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there!” one student told her. If Chelsea had any integrity at all—and to be fair, given her parents, how could she?—she would have told all of the students that blaming a massacre in New Zealand on legitimate criticism of a Jew-bashing Muslim demagogue in the U.S. was moronic, and she should have queried the students about whether they got into college because someone had taken their tests for them, since they lacked the critical thinking skills to run a bait shop. But no…lacking integrity and courage, the former First Daughter grovelled to the mob, because that’s what good progressives are supposed to do in 2019, saying, “I’m so sorry that you feel that way. It was certainly never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity.”

Then there’s the latest entrant into the Democratic Presidential race, Beto O’Roarke, who yesterday apologized for for joking at several events in his first two days campaigning in Iowa that his wife has been raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” After grovelling for that, he  apologized for fiction he wrote when he was a teenager, using the pen-name Psychedelic Warlord, about murder written from the murderer’s point of view. He said he was “mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed… whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter.”

This kind of reaction is why the unethical Hader Gotcha! is becoming an epidemic. Bravo to Ann Althouse for a great take-down:

No. I want him to apologize to the teenager, the boy he once was. Apologize for saying he doesn’t matter. Apologize for being embarrassed for him. Who the hell are you to be embarrassed for him? You are erasing him. You are misappropriating him. What about the teenagers today who hear you and resolve never to write fiction lest it trip up some aggressively ambitious person they may grow into some day?

4. Meanwhile, another Hader Gotcha! finally fails. Right wing activists Jack Posobiec and  Mike Cernovich got James Gunn fired by Disney as the writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, after he unearthed old tweets in which Gunn made tasteless and politically incorrect jokes. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a Change.org petition asking Disney to reconsider. Of course, Gunn also grovelled sufficiently, saying that his tweets were “stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive and certainly not provocative like I had hoped.”

Cernovich and Posobiec maliciously set out to hurt Gunn after he had criticized President Trump on social media. Now Cernovich has demanded that Media Matters  boycott Disney ,  telling  TheWrap, “Disney’s rehiring of James Gunn presents an excellent opportunity for Angelo Carusone and Media Matters to show they are principled fighters for social justice. I eagerly await joining Media Matters’ boycott of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” This is all to prove that Media Matters is biased and hypocritical (like Cernovich), because it has called for a boycott of Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson based on his comments during an old interview with Bubba the Love Sponge.

Ethics note: Kant correctly declared that using human beings as a means to an end is unethical. But no one involved in this episode gave a thought to ethics at all, much less Emanuel Kant.

4.  This is why nobody should read Vox. From Ezra Klein’s website:

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US. “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report. That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims.

  •  The President has never  called immigrants “invaders.” He has called illegal immigrants, who fit the definition of invaders,  what they are. The victims of the two Mosque shootings were not illegal immigrants.
  • The President never uses the term “migrants,” which is another deceitful language tactic to blur the material differences between legal and illegal He does not want to “stop migrants” from entering the U.S. He wants to stop terrorists from entering the U.S., and he wants to stop illegal immigrants.
  • “Using the same language” as someone who does vile things is a desperately unethical accusation and contrived offense, unless the contexts are identical, the words used mean the same thing, and the intentions are the same. Here, they were not—not even close.

5. Rejecting democracy. Oh, let’s have Stacey Abrams run for President too! She fits. Like her increasingly anti-democratic and ironically named party, she wants to undermine public trust in elections. This week the defeated  Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate  again claimed that she won her November election against Republican Brian Kemp, though the vote tallies say otherwise. “I did win my election. I just didn’t get to have the job.”

She has no proof of this, of course;  just the continuing Democratic Party’s corrosive  Big Lie that the system is rigged against female and minority candidates. Hillary Clinton started this partisan trend of refusing to accept defeat with grace and magnanimity, as the system requires to remain viable, unless you want to count Al Gore. Now Abrams says that she will never concede that she lost. Naturally, Hillary, the worst loser in U.S. Presidential history, backs her up. (Clinton, you might recall, excoriated Donald Trump for trolling that he might not accept the election results as legitimate…when she assumed she would win.) Clinton said during her speech on the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” march,

“We know, don’t we, that candidates both black and white lost their races because they had been deprived of the votes they otherwise would have gotten. And the clearest example is from Georgia. Stacey Abrams should be governor, leading that state right now.”

We just know! Just like Democrats just know President Trump has done something impeachable, and just knew Justice Kavanaugh was a rapist, and just know all sorts of things so intensely that evidence and due process aren’t required.

Comments Of The Day: The College Admissions Bribery Scandal

This is a bit of a departure, a showcase for one of Ethics Alarms most active commenters (especially appreciated as the blog experiences boycotts, embargos, and Facebook blocking and other indignities), Michael R. The topic is the recent College Admission scandal, which has been covered here and here.

Michael, an educator, is well informed on this topic, and he shows it in three excellent Comments of the Day.  And I forgive him for never, ever, making a typo.

I.

The college scandal has many, many facets. What has caused standards to slip so low? Well, athletics obviously has a corrosive effect, with students admitted based on athletic ability instead of academic ability. The grade inflation has also greatly degraded college standards. The almost lack of education occurring in our high schools is another factor.

An overlooked factor, however, is the public higher ed systems’ oversupply of colleges. Public college policy has mainly been about votes and prestige, not actual societal need. This has resulted in a lot more colleges than the country actually needs. A typical example would be Local Community College. Well, the President of Local Community College would rather not be the laughingstock of the College President’s Club, so he petitions the state legislature to authorize his school to offer 4-year degrees. He states that his community deserves a 4-year school like (insert rival town here). This proposal is mainly decided on its political merits, not the needs of the state as a whole. It goes through, along with new funding for new facilities, new faculty, and more students for the Local State College. With all the Community Colleges becoming State Colleges, the presidents of the Regional State Colleges petition to become Regional State Universities. They point out the prestige and grant money they could get if they had graduate programs. This too, is granted based on political merit. The National Science Foundation is then pressured to remove funding from the traditional research schools and transfer it to the new State Universities amid allegations of elitism for favoring longstanding research schools with top-notch researchers over the new State Universities with no significant research results and they cave. Now, with no community colleges left, a new round of community colleges is constructed. This increases the number of seats for college students by 30% or so, but there are not more high school students graduating. This is repeated all over the country, so out-of-state students are not an option. The only reasonable option is to lower admissions standards. Once the admission standards are lowered, retention suffers and the faculty are ordered to improve retention and graduation rates. The only reasonable way to do this is to make the classes easier and the race to the bottom is on. Continue reading

An Unethical Quote About An Unethical Quote!

This was Trump’s fault? OK, that makes sense, Senator….thanks for clarifying

I’m sorely tempted to write an unethical post, thus creating the first unethical quote about an unethical quote about an unethical quote…but that would be wrong, as Richard Nixon said.

The topic was the recent New Zealand terror attack, the venue was CNN,  the speaker was Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard  Blumenthal ,and the quote was

“Words have consequences like saying we have an invasion on our border and talking about people as though they were different in some fatal way…I think that the public discourse from the president on down is a factor in some of these actions…Words do have consequences, and we know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about ‘good people on both sides.”

That’s right, the Senator was trying to blame a terrorist attack in New Zealand on Donald Trump. I wopuldn’t have to know a thing about Blumenthal to hear such a statement and conclude, with high confidence, that the speaker was a despicable, principle-free asshole. This is the unethical cognitive dissonance game that has the vile objective of ginning up hate by associating something universally understood as terrible to the person or group you want to demonize, despite the fact that there is no connection at all. President Trump plays this game on occasion, as when he links all illegal immigrants to gang members and murderers, the worst of their number, but at least there is some nexus there. Blumenthal’s smear is completely dishonest; it is in the same category as Hitler blaming Jews for the bad economy. (Don’t throw Godwin’s Law at me: an apt Hitler comparison is the clearest way to show how despicable the tactic is.) “If you hate massacres like this, then you should hate Trump too, because he helps make them happen!” No, he doesn’t, and didn’t, you irredeemable hack:

  • Calling illegal immigrants “invaders” is harsh language but not inaccurate. or unfair. An invader is “A person or group that invades a country, region, or other place.” Invade means “to enter (a place, situation, or sphere of activity) in large numbers, especially with intrusive effect.” There is no requirement, ethically or otherwise to describe those who seek to break our laws in nice terms. Failing to do so, moreover, does not cause maniacs to kill people in New Zealand. Did I mention that Blumenthal is an asshole?
  • “Talking about people as though they were different in some fatal way”…nice turn of phrase there, Senator Boob. The President makes distinctions between law breakers and law abiding citizens, and, in fact, there are many material differences between people, which your party increasingly wants to have embodied in law, so some groups have advantages over others in employment and other areas. But how does the vague conduct alluded to in this inarticulate blob of a phrase kill New Zealanders? I’m not seeing it.
  • “Words do have consequences”...True, and what a shame you don’t know how to use them…
  • “We know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about ‘good people on both sides.” Yes, Senator, we know that the position of your party and supporters is that the only good people are those who believe what you want them to believe.  Everyone else is deplorable.

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Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship

From the New York Times:

Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future.

And what does “similar books” mean?

Based on what I’ve seen from our tech giants, “similar books” could soon include a scientist’s arguments against climate change, a hagiography of President Trump, or an expose of the  misconduct of the Obama Administration. Amazon has decided that anti-vax arguments are dangerous and wrong, and though I happen to agree with them, it is not Amazon’s job to decide what ideas, positions, opinions and theories are worthy of public consumption. Amazon dominated the book retail business (and many other businesses as well). Its censorship policies constrain debate, the free expression of ideas, and the expression of dissent from the majority.

Defenders of civil liberties and freedom of speech must express their disapproval of Amazon’s Big Brother act, even if it has the “right” to abuse its power, and even if it isn’t the government choosing which citizens to muzzle. Conduct like this places me squarely on the side of Elizabeth Warren, who is advocating breaking up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. When we start allowing speech labeled “dangerous” or “untrue” to be blocked, no matter who is doing the blocking, then we are damaging our democracy and the free circulation of ideas, as well as abetting elite attempts at thought control.